He preferred to honor others who had positively affected his life. Ben noted that his father was born in , when Ghana was still a British colony. After its independence, the Nkrumah government established close ties to Russia and planned to send his father to study engineering there. But Nkrumah was overthrown. But his father found purpose in his three sons, declining to take on other wives and children as was common in Ghana at the time.
So today, I thank God that I have the opportunity to honor him by giving my son his name. After Akoli has named his son, Wright, the elder, receives Aviad into his lap. In the olden days, he says of the infant, he would have placed a machete on the infant, "So you know that when you grow up, you have to go into the farm," Wright says, according to Bediako's translation.
He says he would place a book on the infant, "but today as well, everything is on a computer. So I'm going to put a computer on him. And then, he spoons the clear liquids into the infant's mouth — one spoonful of water, the other, a soft drink. David Kim, a Navy chaplain, is asked to bless Aviad. We thank you for the love that is clearly in this room.
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Eventually, Ben Akoli is called upon to give a special blessing to his son. He recalls his 3,mile journey from his small town in Ghana to the United States, how he left his family behind and how he joined the Navy, still unsure of himself, just to pursue something different. But his first duty station in Quantico took him in, "even as an immigrant," he says.
We fight for freedom and justice for the whole world, for the country we live in. But above that, I see the Navy as my family. Akoli blesses his newborn son and gives him words to live by as Aviad, somnolent up to this point, begins to stir in his father's arms.
Be honorable, Akoli tells him. When you see a truth, say it's the truth, even if it's uncomfortable or unpopular. Your father did not have a car seat, Akoli tells him. He did not sleep in a crib. Earning a free ride to college remains a major draw for many young military recruits.
Desert Storm veteran Evelyn Thomas enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to get an education in return for serving her country. As an honor roll student and the African-American daughter of a single mother on government assistance in a small Southwestern town, she said that enlisting in the military was her ticket to advancing herself in the world.
Many young men and women from small, conservative communities enlisted to escape local intolerance.
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Growing up in a religious suburb of Dallas, Iraq War veteran Sean Sala realized he was different when he was around 11 years old. Raised in a literalist evangelical church, he feared for his soul. I had no one else to talk to, and so I believed them. For the next seven years, Sala immersed himself in his faith.
He planned to become a minister and one day run his own megachurch.
Sala insisted that he had never been touched inappropriately and began to feel increasingly hopeless about his future. He joined the Navy shortly after the beginning of the Iraq War to escape his oppressive community and fulfill his patriotic duty. As he fled from intolerance, he did not realize that he was also running toward it.
For many service members, enlisting in the military was the first time they were exposed to others who secretly shared their sexual orientation. They just disappeared. They were there one day and gone the next. You never knew.
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Meyer managed to hide his sexuality for his full 10 years of dedicated service in the late '60s and '70s. Not only did he compromise his identity to serve his country, but he also sacrificed his health. As a result, Meyer said he now suffers from painful spinal degeneration and cancer due to his exposure to various military chemical agents. It fucks up your back! While serving in silence during that period, many members of the armed forces were verbally humiliated, tortured, or raped because of their real or perceived homosexuality, and now suffer from debilitating mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
While living in the barracks at Camp Pendleton, Evelyn Thomas, the Desert Storm veteran, said that her roommates broke into her locker and stole a letter from her mother, which mentioned a woman Thomas was dating. The two women turned it in to her commanding officer and she was transferred to a room in another part of the camp, isolated from all of the other soldiers. They were trying to change me from being homosexual. I got pregnant. He was delivered through an emergency C-section and I almost died on the table. Despite taking on enormous risks to their health and safety, many disabled LGBT veterans have difficulty securing VA health benefits for themselves and their families when they leave the military.
Transgender man and disabled veteran Gene Silvestri says he always felt more male than female, but was stuck in a deep denial. He initially came out to his family as a lesbian to explain his attraction to women, but knew he was still hiding from his authentic self. While a sergeant shouted demeaning slurs at him during a training exercise, Silvestri fell 50 feet off of a Warrior Tower, landing on his back and sustaining serious injuries.
Silvestri was still living as a lesbian when, in , he met the woman he would eventually marry in Emboldened by her love and support, he continued seeking appropriate VA medical disability benefits, spending a total of six years fighting for them before transitioning hormonally in Silvestri says the onerous bureaucratic process of proving his eligibility for coverage and his overwhelming fear of being outed by a VA staff member had prevented him from immediately seeking critical care earlier for his serious injuries.
Many transgender veterans receive coverage for hormone therapy; some are denied. Since Aviad was born on a Monday, Ben's family — who is from the Ashanti tribe — will call him Kwadwo; Adwoa's family, from the Fante tribe, will call him Joojo. Aviad will have a second soul name: Awudor, the last name of his grandfather and Ben's father.
John Awudor did not bestow his last name on any of his three sons, being a man who scoffed at self-gratification, Ben explains later.
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He preferred to honor others who had positively affected his life. Ben noted that his father was born in , when Ghana was still a British colony. After its independence, the Nkrumah government established close ties to Russia and planned to send his father to study engineering there. But Nkrumah was overthrown.
But his father found purpose in his three sons, declining to take on other wives and children as was common in Ghana at the time. So today, I thank God that I have the opportunity to honor him by giving my son his name.